Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Kathy Wade

After a series of three unsuccessful marriages, Kathy decided she no longer wanted her latest ex-husband’s name. She says, “to me the whole sort of thing [her current last name] was just reaffirmation that I’d made poor choices.” Kathy took on her paternal grandmother, Kitty Wade’s, natal name and became Katherine Wade. Decades earlier, at the age of seventeen, this grandmother moved to teach at a Native American Reservation, raised nine children– one of whom passed away– and dealt with the emotional struggle of teaching students in absolutely miserable conditions. Kathy Wade describes Kitty Wade as, “she was just one tough pioneer lady and I liked that. I liked that image.”

Kathy went back to Colorado Springs, where she had grown up, and was one of the few women at the time to acquire a real estate license and enter the business. This was a time when business opportunities were extremely limited for women. In her childhood, it was even harder.  She describes how, “the grandmother on my mother’s side… she kinda ruled with an iron hand, but…she could only speak at the breakfast table. And I would [go to sleep], and I would hear them talking, and then I remembered later that a lot of the things that she told my grandfather at the breakfast table did become practice in the family business, but she would never get the credit for it.”

Opportunities have increased for women, and acknowledging this, she says “I think it’s wonderful the strides we’ve made, but I think we need to keep working at it.” Of names, Kathy says, “I think it doesn’t matter what the name is…I think it’s a matter of individual preference.” However, “[b]eing a strong feminine personality is not a matter of individual preference.”

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